Bruce: Benjani is another option
Sunderland manager Steve Bruce has challenged new signing Benjani Mwaruwari to push Kenwyne Jones all the way for a place in his starting line-up. The 49-year-old insisted last week he wanted the Zimbabwean forward in addition to Jones, who was reportedly a target of Liverpool.
And having finally got his hands on Benjani when a last-gasp loan deal was struck with Manchester City, Bruce is hoping the 31-year-old will provide competition for the Trinidad and Tobago international as the pair bid for a place alongside 15-goal Darren Bent.
Bruce told the Sunderland Echo: "You can seen a lot of similarities between the style of Kenwyne and Benjani. They are both very tall, very powerfully built front men who can cause defenders real problems on their day.
"They are both capable of making and creating goals too. But I don't want Benjani to replace Kenwyne, I need him to give us another option because we have been a bit light in the striking department.
"Darren Bent has got us a stack load of goals this season, but I think that working off a big man is something he thrives upon, and Kenwyne has been a big help to him in that direction. So, getting Benjani in means that we still have the option of pairing a big man with Darren if Kenwyne gets suspended or injured.
"It's reassuring for a manager to have competition for places up front and getting Benjani to the club gives us another body to consider, another option. He's a player I have admired for a long time and I think he's going to be an excellent addition to the squad."
Benjani made just six senior appearances at City this season, only two of them in the Premier League and just one of those in the starting line-up. His only goal came in the 1-0 victory at Middlesbrough in the third round of the FA Cup on 2 January.
However, he arrived on Wearside with Sunderland in the midst of an alarming slump which has left them looking uncomfortably over their shoulders towards the relegation zone. Bruce's men last tasted victory in the league against Arsenal on 21 November, a run of ten games which has yielded just four points.
That makes Saturday's visit of struggling Wigan Athletic to the Stadium of Light a hugely significant encounter, and one in which Benjani, like fellow newcomer Alan Hutton, could be handed a debut.